An Indian sci-fi sequence with nothing to say

OK Computer is a masterpiece. It is a remarkably prescient treatise on time and know-how, a uniquely impressionistic temper piece. How startlingly it begins, the environment it creates, the best way its phrases mislead and course-correct, and the way you’re left dazed and spent and perpetually modified. I can’t overlook the primary time I heard it. It was Radiohead’s third album, instantly separating these English rockers from all contemporaries. I might gratefully write a whole column on that devastatingly lovely music No Surprises, about suicide and “a heart that’s full up like a landfill”. Exquisite.

I’m, alas, not doing that right here, as OK Computer additionally occurs to be the identify for a brand new Indian web-series, streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. Created and directed by Pooja Shetty and Neil Pagedar, this bold try at homegrown science-fiction takes India a decade into the longer term to serve up a satirical murder-mystery that includes gender-neutral robots, big holographic policewomen, and a merrily bare Jackie Shroff. It’s the form of present we’ve by no means seen.

We might not have been lacking a lot.

The sequence begins with a corpse. In the yr 2031, a human has been killed by a self-driving taxicab, however automated vehicles — like all synthetic intelligence — are programmed to not hurt or disobey people, so who’s the assassin? The physique is mangled past recognition, so who’s the sufferer? Answers are sought by a short-tempered AI-hating cop paired together with his ex, a robot-loving activist from an organisation referred to as PETER (People for the Ethical Treatment of Every Robot). He believes these damned machines would be the demise of us. She believes machines are incapable of malice.

The present has a terrific forged, and a handful of doubtless meaty concepts, like a robotic meant to save lots of humanity selecting to carry out stand-up comedy, and the member of a cult making her teenage daughter signal a nondisclosure settlement. What the sequence doesn’t have is any tonal consciousness, with every second become one thing nonsensical, a street-play strategy to a science-fiction sequence. Add to this an disagreeable visible aesthetic and an agonisingly shrill speaking robotic, and you’ve got six 40-minute episodes which really feel particularly designed to torture the viewer.

The principal plot of investigating a homicide dedicated by a self-driving automobile feels suspiciously near Amazon Prime series Upload, and OK Computer concocts a infantile thriller with — actually — two suspects. It feels much less like a whodunnit and extra like a spoof of a movie that doesn’t exist.

Absurdist comedy could be wondrous. While this oddball sequence most carefully resembles Pankaj Parashar’s anything-goes stoner comedies of the 1980s — Peechha Karo and Ab Aayega Mazaa, the place spies and lovers ran literal circles round one another — these movies unabashedly celebrated silliness. This sequence desperately needs us to consider it’s sensible. That makes it tedious. Each episode stretches endlessly, a disappointingly banal plot embellished by too many quirks, too many winks to the viewers, and, most crucially, too little real wit.

Visually, it wanted fashion. It’s a intelligent (and budget-friendly) transfer to develop a scruffy sci-fi aesthetic for India, a non-streamlined future in line with our technologically backward authorities places of work. The intentional shoddiness of future tech shouldn’t be the issue, however apart from a few prospers — a cop with a police-car fashion flasher on his shoulder, a Video Game Commission constructing with a Super Mario sort question-mark hologram over its doorway — the present appears to be like principally unimaginative. It’s too uninteresting to be memorable.

Vijay Varma is flat-out implausible as Saajan Kundu, the clueless officer skeptical about know-how, transferring with the awkwardness of a nerdy youngster poured right into a tall man’s physique, seemingly uncertain how people work. He lives inside a fur-lined van, will get smacked within the face by toast, and eats a pineapple with wild gusto. Radhika Apte is a riot because the robot-sympathising Lakshmi Suri, with a Thunberg-ian backstory. “Do you like water?”, she coos lovingly to a robotic, and later kisses one other — formed like a big teddy bear — in an intimate, decidedly non-platonic method. It is liberating to see the actress, forged so typically in tormented roles, right here embracing the lunacy.

The third protagonist is a robotic referred to as Ajeeb, one who was meant to save lots of us all — one who turned manure into water throughout a drought, and again into manure throughout a manure scarcity — and s/he feels like a damaged wind-up doll doing babytalk. This is so infuriating that I really modified the present’s language to Bengali for scenes the place Ajeeb talked quite a bit, merely to flee that godawful voice. Note to creators: There is a motive Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (an apparent affect right here) is narrated by The Book, and never by Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Kani Kusruti shines as Monalisa Paul, an enthused policewoman caught between Laxmi’s ideology and Saajan’s seniority, an intern even in her personal fantasies. Jackie Shroff laughs that booming snicker as “anti-vaxxer, anti-robot” cult chief Pushpak Shakur, however regardless of his magnetism (and fixed nakedness), the actor tragically will get solely a dozen minutes of screentime. These actors deserved higher.

Good on Disney+ Hotstar, although. This present is made for such a small and particular venn-diagram — stoners interested by science-fiction who might know Hitchhiker’s Guide, however haven’t learn Kurt Vonnegut or Philip Ok Dick, or watched real sci-fi — that it feels weirdly thrilling OK Computer even exists. It opens a door even when it could not know the place to go.

By the time I made it to the final episode, like a hallucinating long-distance runner, OK Computer abruptly appeared actual. As characters began feeling issues, and the barrage of one-liners halted to let in penalties, the present whirred to life. Briefly. Then a filmmaker confirmed as much as lecture us about mankind. More than something, OK Computer is responsible of the one unforgivable science-fiction sin: it presents no new perspective, perception or query. No Surprises.

Stream of Stories is a column on what to look at on-line. Raja Sen is a movie critic and the writer of The Best Baker In The World (2017), a youngsters’s adaptation of The Godfather.

@rajasen

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